Estonia-Russia cross-border cooperation before and after the political crisis of 2014: drawbacks, developments, and transformations



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Tartu Ülikool


The topic of cross-border cooperation is increasing in its relevance. When it comes to cross-border cooperation, international relations become an important issue in the framing of transboundary activities and the process of implementation. The healthier and more harmonious is the international environment, the more successful cross-border activities are. Estonia and Russia share the largest transboundary water body in Europe which makes them highly dependent on common environmental problems with preservation of sustainable conditions of the lake, wildlife protection measures, and common fisheries management. However, international relations between Estonia and Russia have never been the easiest ones and stay under the influence of the general international environment. The main aim of the proposed study is to find out if the political developments have a crucial influence on the environmental cooperation and partnership of the local actors, as well as their actions. The research is intended to find drawbacks or benefits of political tensions over environmental cooperation. It is framed as qualitative research based on the comparison of environmental cooperation developments before and after 2014 - a notable point of political disturbances and year of the Estonia-Russia Programme launch as an extension of Estonia-Latvia-Russia Programme. To answer the main question of the research – whether political crisis influence environmental cross-border cooperation – a comparative study of materials of Joint Operational Programs were conducted. Further, the interview with people directly involved in the transboundary cooperation was performed. As a result, the study showed up the general problems of the region which are present there for a quite long time: discrepancies in legislations, poor monitoring and evaluation capabilities, low public visibility of the projects, lack of language knowledge, and the bureaucracy of managing actors. Interviewees gave a positive assessment to the regional cross-border cooperation. The most striking issues for representatives of NGOs were bureaucracy and tight frames of the Programme which “take a life out of the project”.